Using Technology in the Classrooms

About the use of technology in classrooms. . . sometimes there are lessons that are just quicker and more effective without technology. If you can accomplish your learning goal with a quick paper/pencil activity, go for it.

So when is it a good idea to use technology? When it affords students opportunities they can’t otherwise obtain, or when it allows them to create, collaborate, research, and communicate. Or when you recognize that the tech tools are often integral in students’ lives and you want the learning to meet them where they live and breathe.

And sometimes it’s also a completely cool and appropriate use of the technology when it looks like this. . . check out this video of two of our stupendous Kindergarten students learning in Lisa Burris’ class. One more option, one more way to connect. Now you tell me, are our two students excited about making words; are they learning with passion and innovation?

  1. I use this question as an ‘acid test’ to any ‘new’ thing that comes along in education: “What is the world I am preparing them for?” These are kindergartners- they are going to go off to college in the year 2023. The world I am preparing them for WILL put an ipad in their pocket- they will order their meals in restaurants on an ipad, they will pay all their bills online, they will not have a land line in their home, they are going to do things with ipads/cell phones/computer interfaces that we haven’t even DREAMED of yet- they need to be dreaming of those things now-before the world sews their imaginations shut. So, YES our kindergartners should be learning and playing on ipads- we would be doing them a disservice not to.

  2. My two and a half year old was introduced to an iPad at Thanksgiving by her cousin, a teacher. She had so much fun with it (and i wanted one too) that Santa brought one for Christmas. Since Christmas morning she’s mastered turning it on, moving to her programs, and picking what she wants to play. At this point her games are all educational and she’s picking out shapes, finding letters in cartoon scenes (specific letters – Moose says find the A and she finds the A) and counting things. She’s had magnetic letters and numbers since she was trying to eat them and two pretty engaged parents. I think the animations and sounds technology offers add entertainment value and make it more fun to learn; and it’s human nature to be better at something you enjoy. If the iPad broke today it would still be worth the money and we’d buy another one. I imagine tablet devices could pretty quickly replace a lot of textbooks, and I’d bet they are pretty expensive. You get what you pay for and I’m OK with paying taxes for a good education for my daughter.

  3. I strongly believe that the iPad is a wonderful classroom tool- but the apps have to catch up and become more than a replacement to cheaper tools.

  4. It makes it hard to believe that the school really could possibly have a budget problem when you are wasting money on iPads. I think the school district should be more concerned about lowering the school budget then finding more ways to waste money. It would be interesting to see just how much money the school has wasted on the “new” thing such as smartboards and ipads. Also, about the comment of only having one ipad per classroom: There is a picture on the school website of four or five young children all with ipads. Do some classrooms get more?

  5. I’m all for 21st century skills and #edreform, but until you place an iPad/Android in a teachers/students hand you cannot hope to get them across that digital divide and it is a digital divide or maybe a digital device divide. I’m a complete technophile and was very skeptical of the iPad until I’ve been using one for the last month as part of an iPad for administrators grant from NYSCATE. I cannot begin to tell you how fascinated I am. I have downloaded Kindle, Nook and Google Ebook software. I’m using iBooks. I’m making phone calls w/Skype from this device. I bought an Eyeclops projector and an AV connector to connect the iPad to the mini-projector. If a school were to switch to Google Apps for Education then iPads would be the missing ingredient and think about all the money that would be saved. No anti-virus anymore! Tech support cut in half or maybe more because no need re-imaging. Incrediblly innovative devices and that includes Android of which I am fan too. Seeing is believing!

  6. I totally get the idea that the iPad is exciting and engaging for the children in this video. But what happens when the novelty wears off? Then all we have is an electronic version of the $10 magnetic board mentioned in earlier comments.

    The challenge for us educators who want to embed this kind of technology into classrooms is to bring in higher-level, critical thinking skills so the technology does MORE than the traditional methods. In this case, we would be hard-pressed to make the case that an iPad is the best tool for moving letters around to spell words (at $500 a pop). How can we use the iPad to extend the students’ creativity and critical thinking? What can these kindergartners do with this tool that they can’t do with a magnetic letter board?

    We will not be able sell the idea that this tool is valuable in schools to a budget-conscious public if we do not show that it can do so much more for our 21st century learners. I think the same argument can be made for interactive white boards. What can we do with them that is better for kids than a dry erase board?

    The answers is to these questions revolve around critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity. What if these kindergartners were connected to other five year olds at another school and they were collaborating on a project with the same sight words? How engaging would that be for the students?

    We need to keep pushing for the use of 21st century tools in a 21st century frame of mind.

  7. I think this was a great video. Showing how the kids were interacting, actually helping one another during this activity. You can’t get that in an IPAD. Did anyone say that these were kindergarteners? The excitement to learn was truly evident. Yes, it’s a “gadget” but it was definitely engaging our students and making learning “fun”. I loved it!!!

  8. I suppose you could use a magnet board but what would the point be. In this day and age it makes sense to use what is at our disposal. It not 1980 anymore nor is it even 2009. When you can give children a shot to use the medium they best relate to then I think you really have no choice. You’re being prudent and one iPad a classroom is certainly a very conservative approach.

    I see iPads and Android tablets replacing desktop and laptop PC’s and soon too. iPads are a great use of the taxpayers money too. Software is relatively inexpensive, no virus software needed. A great device!

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  10. It would be interesting to see a video of the same kids doing the same thing with a magnet board and letters. There is something so engaging about the iPad (and I’m not just talking about 5-year-olds!). Is that engagement worth $500? I think it is, but it’s certainly debatable.

  11. I get you Dean. And I’m conscious of the taxpayers at every turn, using the money that we have effectively. There is only one IPAD in the classroom, teachers at Kindergarten chose to study the potential for learning with the IPAD in their PLC this year.

    That’s why I say, got to start somewhere. I’ve seen first hand that putting the tools in the hands of the teachers and students leads to all of those 21st century skills we want kids to leave our school with, eventually. We have as wide a variety of success and implementation with all of the technology we’ve purchased as we do teachers in the classroom. Guess I’m just a believer in the Field of Dreams adage, “if you build it, they will come.” If we give them the tools, they will eventually collaborate across networks, assess and analyze information, develop curiosity and imagination, communicate, and work with a variety of tools with agility and adaptability.

    Your perspective is a valid one and a driving force in our purchasing decisions. It’s just balanced with our vision of where our teachers and students can go, if we provide them with the tools and the learning. Thanks for weighing in!

  12. Certainly you do have to start somewhere but I’m thinking of specific naysayers (penny pinching policy makers) who see spending $500 for a device like an ipad to be frivolous. If I showed them this video, I’m not sure it would convince them otherwise.

    What I do love here is the way in which the students are working together. I guess I”m just sensitive to those who balk at using technology when less expensive ways might be available. I love your premise here but just thought I’d offer a different perspective.

    Please don’t see this as trying to downplay the work here. Simply wanting to satisfy my own challenges when exploring new avenues for learning.

  13. I don’t mean to sound critical because I get the potential here, but I can see someone arguing that you could accomplish the same thing with a magnet board and letters.

    As you say, technology should provide affordances not otherwise attainable. I’m just not sure this example would illustrate that very well.

    Maybe I’m missing something. Again, not trying to be critical but I simply want to insure that we truly see technology in transformative ways.

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